Under the law, ‘injuries’ means physical or mental injuries, diseases or illnesses. All workplaces should have a clear system of reporting injuries or other health and safety issues.
Employers have a responsibility to:
- keep a register of injuries
- make it clear to workers how to report and record injuries in the register
- display information about reporting injuries (including timeframes) in a place where all workers can see it
If you are injured at work, you can enter the incident yourself in the register, or ask someone else, such as the Health and Safety Rep, to do it for you. If there is no injury register at your workplace, speak with your union as your employer is not meeting their legal obligations.
When to report an injury
To be eligible for WorkCover, workers must report their injury. Reporting time periods differ for each state and territory (see Table 1)
Table 1. Injury Reporting Time Periods
|Injured worker notifies employer/insurer of injury|
|New South Wales||'...as soon as possible after the injury happens.' - s44(1), Workplace Injury Management and Workers Compensation Act 1998.|
|Victoria||30 days after becoming aware of injury - s18(1), Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013. Beyond 30 days after becoming aware of injury in certain conditions - s18(6).|
|Western Australia||As soon as practicable -s178(1)(a), Workers' Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981. Claim within 12 months of injury - s178(1)(b)|
|South Australia||Within 24 hours of as soon as practicable - s16(2), Return to Work Act 2014|
|Tasmania||As soon as practicable and before the worker has voluntarily left the employment - s32(1)(a), Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.|
|Northern Territory||As soon as practicable - s80(1) Return to Work Act.|
|Australian Capital Territory||As soon as possible - s93(1), Workers Compensation Act 1951|
|Commonwealth Comcare||As soon as practicable - s53(1)(a), Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.|
|Commonwealth Seacare||As soon as practicable - s62(1)(a), Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992|
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA) - N/A
Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defencerelated Claims) Act 1998 (DRCA) - As soon as practicable s53(1)(a)
Source: SafeWork Australia
Some injuries (eg. a wound from a tool) are obvious straight away – others develop over time (eg. lung disease from toxic fumes). Injuries can come from a single incident or be the cumulative result of unsafe work. The key is to report as soon as the worker is aware of the injury.
In some cases, work can make a pre-existing condition (eg. asthma, allergies) worse, or trigger an episode. This is still a workplace injury under the law. It will be important to show dates of worsening symptoms and identify the work-related cause.
See Compensation for more information on WorkCover claims.
Note: For serious accidents, injuries, deaths or immediate serious threats to worker safety see “Serious Incidents” for actions to take. Call 000 in an emergency. Under common law, all workers have a right to cease work when in danger.
Serious safety incidents may include accidents, injuries, deaths or anything that seriously threatens safety (such as fire, equipment failures, building collapses).
Employers and people who control workplaces have a responsibility to report serious incidents to the health and safety regulator. Reportable incidents include deaths, serious injuries and incidents that seriously threaten safety such as building or machinery collapses, fires or chemical spills.
If a serious incident occurs, your employer must:
- Take immediate actions to protect safety
- Report the incident to the health and safety regulator straight away by phone
- Notify Health and Safety Representatives if their work group is affected
- Create an incident report within 48 hours and make it available when asked
- Conduct a risk assessment and introduce controls to prevent future incidents (in consultation with workers).
Call emergency services on 000 if there is serious danger or somebody is seriously injured. All workers have a right to cease work when there is an immediate threat to their safety.